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1730 State Street Extension
Bridgeport, CT, 06605
United States

2038104041

Simply Smiles provides bright futures for children, families, and communities. The organization partners with populations in need to create physical and emotional environments where suffering is alleviated and from which local leaders can emerge.

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UCC Partnership

Simply Smiles & the UCC

The Simply Smiles partnership with the United Church of Christ has guided & driven our launch & success as an internationally-impactful not-for-profit organization. Since 2003, thousands of UCC members have discovered that supporting the work of Simply Smiles is a meaningful expression of their personal faith and the principles of the United Church of Christ.

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join us in seeking a just world for all

partners in providing bright futures since 2003

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Bryan Nurnberger, President and Founder of Simply Smiles, grew up in the Naugatuck, Connecticut, Congregational Church. As a high schooler, he became president of Naugatuck’s Pilgrim Fellowship Youth Group, where he actively participated in service work locally, at H.O.M.E. in Orland, Maine, and at the La Romana Mission in the Dominican Republic.

In 2002, Bryan was injured while working as a mountain climbing guide. Recuperating in Mexico, he found a struggling orphanage and offered to volunteer. The children he encountered there, who were Zapotec, Mixtec, Mixe, and Chinanteco Indians, inspired him to create Simply Smiles.

Upon hearing his stories from the orphanage, his home congregation in Naugatuck sprang into action, filling a used school bus with donations, and blessing Simply Smiles’ first major initiative — a 3,000 mile bus trip adventure from Connecticut to Mexico.

The First Congregational Church of Bethlehem, CT became the very first UCC church to participate in a Simply Smiles service trip, traveling to Oaxaca, Mexico in 2004.

Bryan Nurnberger received the  Living Waters Award  from the Connecticut Conference of the UCC in 2010. This award is given to individuals “who work for justice, live ethically, build community, and promote the common good in their workplaces and in their communities.”

Bryan Nurnberger received the Living Waters Award from the Connecticut Conference of the UCC in 2010. This award is given to individuals “who work for justice, live ethically, build community, and promote the common good in their workplaces and in their communities.”

Simply Smiles’ first two office spaces were donated by the congregational churches in Naugatuck and Southport, CT. This allowed the organization to expand its operations, and in 2008, Simply Smiles began working on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation in South Dakota.

The Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ recognized Bryan in 2010 with the Living Waters Award, the highest honor given to laypeople for “outstanding Christian ministry, life, and witness that is done outside the church setting as an expression of one’s faith.”

In 2015, Bryan’s pastor from Naugatuck, Rev. Gordon Rankin, was installed as the South Dakota UCC Conference Minister, after having travelled to South Dakota several times on Simply Smiles service trips. Together, Bryan and Gordon began a relationship between Simply Smiles and the UCC churches on the Cheyenne River Reservation.

In 2017, The Dakota Association of 13 Lakota UCC churches voted unanimously to partner with Simply Smiles, offering the organization eight acres of their Reservation land.

Today, more than 5,000 UCC members support the work of Simply Smiles - including through service trip opportunities recognized and endorsed by the UCC national office.

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For almost 20 years, I have led youth group service trips, and, simply put, Simply Smiles is the best I’ve seen.

Rev. Andy Nagy-Benson • Congregational Church of Middlebury, VT, UCC

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One of the great blessings in my life is the opportunity to be part of the work of Simply Smiles: the most authentic example of Kingdom work that I have experienced.

Rev. Laura Westby • CT

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This was easily the best and most organized mission trip that I've ever taken a group on.

Rev. Dr. Chris Davies • UCC National, Cleveland, OH

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It's a rare privilege to be part of an experience where you can see & know that people's lives were changed. Such was the case for our youth group, and we are truly grateful.

Rev. Mark Abernethy • Wapping UCC, CT

service trips endorsed by:

See our service trip listing on the UCC National webpage.

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See our service trip listing on the Connecticut Conference webpage.

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Read the resolution of support, passed in October 2018, that formalizes the partnership between Simply Smiles and the Kansas-Oklahoma Conference.

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Silver Lake Conference Center in Connecticut hosts an annual service trip with Simply Smiles and makes an annual financial contribution.

sharing the simply smiles story

Simply Smiles President and Founder Bryan Nurnberger presents the keynote address at the West Central Regional Youth Event in 2018.

Simply Smiles President and Founder Bryan Nurnberger presents the keynote address at the West Central Regional Youth Event in 2018.

Dozens of congregations nationwide have invited us to present a guest sermon or to host a talk during second hour. Bryan Nurnberger has also shared his personal story of growing up in a service-minded congregational church and of the Simply Smiles-UCC partnership at these recent events:

  • West Central Regional Youth Event 2018 • Keynote Address & Workshop Presentation

  • Great Lakes Regional Youth Event 2018 • Keynote Address & Workshop Presentation

  • Eastern Regional Youth Event 2018 • Keynote Address & Workshop Presentation

  • National Youth Event 2017 • Workshop Presentation

put your faith into action

We can provide a guest sermon, a presentation during second hour after worship, or a presentation to your missions board.

Learn more about our volunteer service trips on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota and in Oaxaca, Mexico.

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Become a supporter — as a congregation through your missions board or as an individual — of our community-building work.

Partner churches who have recently volunteered with Simply Smiles:

Ann Arbor Congregational Church, MI

Chester Congregational Church, CT

Fairfield First Congregational Church, CT

Farmington Valley Association of the UCC, CT

Guilford Community Church, VT

Middlebury Congregational Church, VT

Monroe Congregational Church, CT

Plymouth Congregational Church, KS

Round Hill Community Church, CT

Rowayton Congregational Church, CT

Roxbury Congregational Church, CT

Silver Lake Conference Center Youth Camp, CT

Stamford Congregational Church, CT

Wapping Congregational Church, CT

Woodmont Congregational Church, CT

Calvary Lutheran Church, Green Bay, WI

As the Conference Minister of Connecticut, I offer my support for the ministries of Simply Smiles. ... Many churches of our Conference have sent members to both South Dakota & Oaxaca. People return changed from their experience. Many volunteer again after their first trip, which is a solid testimony to how a service experience with Simply Smiles captures the heart & builds enthusiasm for the work that they do.
— Rev. Kent Siladi, Conference Minister, Connecticut Conference
It’s hard to capture how uplifting it was to hear testimony about how Simply Smiles is making a difference in the lives of impoverished children & their families and how Kansas-Oklahoma Churches can be a part of this ministry.
— Rev. Edith Guffey, Conference Minister, Kansas-Oklahoma Conference

a covenant with the dakota conference

Simply Smiles and the Dakota Association of 13 Lakota UCC churches share a vision of empowering the next generation of Lakota youth on the Cheyenne River Reservation. In 2017, The Dakota Association solidified this shared vision by voting unanimously to partner with Simply Smiles, offering the organization eight acres of their Reservation land.

The connection between the Dakota Association and Simply Smiles began a few years before in 2015, when Rev. Gordon Rankin, Bryan Nurnberger’s pastor from his hometown in Connecticut, was installed as the South Dakota UCC Conference Minister.

The land lease, signed in the summer of 2018, will increase our efforts, grow our partnerships, and allow us to work each day to create the smiles that lead to the brightest possible future for the children of Cheyenne River. Read more from Bryan Nurnberger about our partnership with the Dakota Association.

Read Rev. Gordon Rankin’s reflection on the collaboration between Simply Smiles and the Dakota Association.

Rev. Gordon Rankin (left) with Bryan Nurnberger stand on the leased Dakota Association land in La Plant, South Dakota on the Cheyenne River Reservation.

Rev. Gordon Rankin (left) with Bryan Nurnberger stand on the leased Dakota Association land in La Plant, South Dakota on the Cheyenne River Reservation.

On June 3, 2018, the Dakota Association of the United Church of Christ held a church service & blessing at the Virgin Creek (La Plant) Congregational Church to celebrate the land lease.

On June 3, 2018, the Dakota Association of the United Church of Christ held a church service & blessing at the Virgin Creek (La Plant) Congregational Church to celebrate the land lease.

put your faith into action

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We can provide a guest sermon, a presentation during second hour after worship, or a presentation to your missions board.

Learn more about our volunteer service trips on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota and in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Become a supporter — as a congregation or as an individual — of our community-building work.

snapshots: ucc members in action

Members of the Plymouth Youth Group at Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence, KS, show off their Simply Smiles t-shirts upon returning from their 2018 service trip to the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota.

Members of the Plymouth Youth Group at Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence, KS, show off their Simply Smiles t-shirts upon returning from their 2018 service trip to the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota.